March 28, 2020: In January 2020 the United States lifted
restrictions on the deployment of anti-personnel landmines by American
forces. This ban had been imposed in 2014 for American troops everywhere
except those in South Korea. That decision was criticized worldwide
because most nations had signed and ratified the 1997 Ottawa Convention
banning the manufacture or use of landmines.
The new American
rules allow U.S. troops to use landmines that are activated or
deactivated electronically and permanently deactivate after a set period
or when their battery runs out of power. The Americans believe the
mines are essential in Korea because North Korea has been threatening to
attack again because the 1953 armistice halted but did not officially
end the Korean War (1950-53). The North Koreas regularly remind the U.S.
and South Korea of that fact.
The U.S. also believes the Ottawa
Convention is largely a failure because landmines are still widely used.
While 161 nations signed the Ottawa treaty, the 36 which did not
comprise some major military powers like China, Egypt, India, Iran,
Israel (and the Palestinians), both Koreas, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi
Arabia, and the United States. Most of these nations still see a
pressing need for landmines, although many are trying to find
Landmines were outlawed in 1999 but most of
the nations that rushed to sign the Ottawa Convention either didn’t have
landmines or didn’t have any reason to use them. While landmine
casualties have declined from about 20,000 a year when the Cold War
ended (1991) to about 5,000 now, that was largely due to the collapse of
many communist governments, which were always the biggest landmine
users, mainly to keep people from entering or leaving their territory.
The fall of communism led to more open borders and a lot of mines were
taken out of service. Thus the treaty backers like to take credit for 87
countries destroying 46 million landmines. The reality was that most of
those mines would have been destroyed anyway because the collapse of so
many communist governments made most of those mines unnecessary and for
retirement and destruction.
Despite the anti-landmine efforts,
some countries still manufacture and use them. In the last few years
Israel, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Myanmar (Burma) planted new
mines. Although some nations that still use landmines, like Israel,
have taken the lead in developing new technology and techniques for
quickly clearing landmines, especially old ones whose location was never
In addition, there are three countries still
manufacturing landmines (India, Myanmar, and Pakistan). Arms dealers
still provide large quantities of Russian and Chinese landmines, many of
them Cold War surplus. China, Russia, and other communist nations were
the major producers of landmines during the Cold War. The mines were
produced not so much for use against potential enemies but to aid in
keeping the borders closed and preventing citizens from leaving these
There has been a growing list of outlaw
organizations that are ignoring the 1999 ban. The Taliban in
Afghanistan and Pakistan are manufacturing landmines in primitive
workshops and using them against Pakistani, Afghan, and foreign
soldiers, as well as Afghan civilians who refuse to support Islamic
terrorism. Rebels and gangsters have not signed the international
agreement and find the mines a cheap way to control civilian populations
and slow down the movements of the security forces. It takes more time,
money, and effort to remove these mines than to place them.
the 1999 treaty, landmines are still causing over 5,000 casualties a
year worldwide. About 20 percent of the victims are killed and 90
percent of them are males. This is largely because men are more likely
to be out in the bush or working farmlands that still contain mines. A
third of the casualties are security personnel (police and soldiers).
This is because in many countries rebels and criminals are still using
landmines, either factory made ones from countries that did not sign the
Ottawa Convention or locally made models.
Landmines are simple
to make and workshops are easily set up to do it. There’s no shortage of
mines out there, despite the fact that so many have been destroyed in
the name of the 1999 Ottawa Convention. There are believed to be over
100 million mines still in the ground and at least as many in military
warehouses for future use.
The 1999 Ottawa Convention was
supposed to have eliminated the threat of landmines. It hasn’t worked
because the owners of the largest landmine stockpiles, especially Russia
and China, refused to sign. Chinese landmines are still available on
the international arms black market. China is believed to have the
largest stockpile, mostly of anti-personnel mines. The old ones are
often sold before they become worthless. But even these mines, which go
for $5-10 each, are too expensive for many of the criminal organizations
that buy them. Land mines, competitive with the factory built ones from
China, can be built for less than $3 each. You can find all the
technical data you need on the Internet.